The divided and controversial Jefferson County school board continues to make headlines. The latest? A mea culpa from board member Julie Williams for posting a link on her Facebook page to a newsletter that encouraged parents to keep their kids home from school and "away from perverse indoctrination" and the "unnatural and unhealthy homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda" on April 17.
That was the date of the "Day of Silence" protest, in which students across the country vowed to stay silent to "call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment," according to GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network, which organizes the event. The newsletter that Williams posted was from SaveCalifornia.com, which calls itself a "frontline pro-family leader." But the education news site Chalkbeat Colorado pointed out that the organization is considered an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Williams claimed she didn't read the Save California newsletter before posting it and promised to delete it from her Facebook page. It appears she made good on that promise, but not before several news stories quoted from it. According to those stories, the newsletter called the Day of Silence an "overwhelming exaggeration in an effort to manipulate our kids’ natural sympathies" and warned parents that participants would "label anyone who’s against it a 'bigot,' a 'hater,' or worse."
Williams did not return a phone call or e-mail from Westword seeking comment. But she told other news outlets, including Fox31 (video below), that "it was a mistake." She said she didn't know that Save California was a controversial group and she doesn't agree with its view of LGBT folks. She said she posted the link after she received questions from parents about the Day of Silence.
"I apologize sincerely if I offended anyone," Williams told Fox31.
This isn't the first time Williams's actions have caused media scrutiny. It was Williams who suggested in September 2014 that the district form a committee to review the Advanced Placement U.S. History curriculum. Her proposal stated that course materials should promote “patriotism” and “positive aspects of the United States” and not encourage “civil disorder” or “social strife.”
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The proposal prompted several student walkouts, which attracted local and national media attention, including a story in the New York Times. Critics lambasted the school board at meetings and on Twitter with the hashtag #JeffcoSchoolBoardHistory. The board never voted to form the committee.
Williams was elected in November 2013. She is a member of the board majority, along with Ken Witt and John Newkirk. As explained in our cover story, "Class Warfare," the three have taken several controversial votes in their year and a half on the board, including to give more money to charter schools, to hire an attorney to represent the board and to adopt a new pay-for-performance teacher compensation plan. A vocal group of parents, students and community members oppose them.
Watch Fox31's report below.